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Mastering Prepositions Your Ultimate Guide to English Grammar

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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What better way to upgrade your English language skills than by accessing resources created by English language proficiency test trainers? In this resource, you get to master the crucial preposition words. With easy-to-understand explanations and examples, you benefit from retaining the concept of a preposition. Do not forget to attempt the free worksheet as well!

Introduction: Why are Prepositions Important to you?

What is a preposition? A preposition acts as a connective link between various elements in a sentence. Preposition words establish relationships between nouns, pronouns, and other parts of speech, providing critical information about location, direction, time, and more. 

For example, consider the sentence, “The book is on the table.” Here, the preposition “on” indicates the relationship between the book and the table, conveying their spatial connection.

Without a preposition or a phrasal preposition, sentences may become ambiguous or lack clarity, making it difficult for readers or listeners to understand the intended meaning.

Effective Communication and Clarity

A preposition lets writers provide specific details about relationships, locations, and other essential aspects. For instance, using the correct preposition in a sentence like “She arrived at the party” instead of “She arrived in the party” conveys the intended meaning accurately.

What Are Prepositions: Their Definition, Function and Examples

The English grammar answers the question, what is a preposition? A preposition is a word that expresses a relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence. Prepositions are essential for indicating a sentence’s location, time, direction, and relationships between various elements.

Function of Prepositions

  1. Indicating Location: Prepositions help convey where something is located. For example, “The book is on the table”.
  2. Indicating Time: Prepositions show when something occurs. For instance, “We will meet at 3 p.m.” 
  3. Indicating Direction: Prepositions express the direction of movement. For example, “He walked towards the park.” 
  4. Indicating Relationships: Prepositions establish connections between words and phrases, expressing relationships like possession, comparison, or means. For instance, “The key to success is hard work and ambition”.

Types of Prepositions: Simple Prepositions and Their Role

Simple Prepositions are the most basic type of prepositions in the English language. Simple prepositions are typically one-word prepositions that convey spatial, temporal, and directional relationships.

Preposition examples:

  1. In: The cat is sleeping in the basket.
  2. On: The book is resting on the table.
  3. At: They will meet at the restaurant.
  4. By: He goes to work by car.
  5. To: She gave a gift to her friend.
  6. From: The letter is from my sister.
  7. With: He is playing with his dog.
  8. For: I bought a present for my mother.

Compound Prepositions: Words that you need to express complex relationships 

Compound prepositions are prepositions that are formed by combining prepositions with other words. Compound prepositions provide additional specificity and detail compared to simple prepositions.

Formation of Compound Prepositions

Compound prepositions combine prepositions with adverbs, nouns, or adjectives. The resulting combination forms a single unit as a preposition, indicating various relationships.

Examples of Compound Prepositions:

  1. According to: According to the weather forecast, it will rain tomorrow.
  2. In front of : The car is parked in front of the house.
  3. Out of: He jumped out of the window.
  4. Instead of: She chose tea instead of coffee.
  5. On top of: The book is on top of the table.
  6. Apart from: Apart from English, she speaks French fluently.
  7. Because of: They cancelled the event because of the rain.
  8. Due to: The delay was due to unforeseen circumstances.
  9. Next to: The store is located next to the bank.
  10. Close to: The park is close to my house.

Prepositions of Place and Location: WOrds that Skyrocket your Communication Skills with them

Prepositions of place and location are used to indicate where something is located or the position of an object in relation to another object or a specific area. Use of in and at also finds a place here. 

Usage of Prepositions of Place and Location:

  1. In: Used to indicate being inside a large area or a container. Example: The cat is sleeping in the box.
  2. On: Used to indicate being in contact with a surface. Example: The book is on the table.
  3. At: Used to indicate a specific point or location. Example: We will meet at the park.
  4. Under: Used to indicate being beneath or lower than something else. Example: The keys are under the pillow.
  5. Above: Used to indicate being higher or over something else. Example: The bird is flying above the clouds.
  6. Behind: Used to indicate being at the back or rear of something. Example: The car is parked behind the building.
  7. Beside: Used to indicate being next to or by the side of something. Example: She sat beside her friend in the theatre.
  8. Between: Used to indicate the position of something in the middle of two other objects. Example: The cat is between the two chairs.

Prepositions of Time: Elevate your Confidence in English with These Words

Prepositions of time are used to indicate when an event occurs or the temporal relationship between different actions or occurrences. 

Usage of Prepositions of Time:

  1. Before: Used to indicate that an event occurs earlier than another event. Example: She arrived before the meeting started.
  2. After: Used to indicate that an event occurs later than another event. Example: We will have dinner after the movie ends.
  3. During: Used to indicate the period in which an event occurs. Example: She worked diligently during the summer.
  4. At: Used to indicate a specific point in time or a particular hour. Example: The train will depart at 9 a.m.
  5. On: Used to indicate specific days or dates. Example: We are meeting on Monday.
  6. In: Used to indicate more extended periods, such as months, seasons, or years. Example: They will go on vacation in August.

Prepositions of Direction and Movement: Your Ultimate Support In English Language Learning

Prepositions of direction and movement indicate a person or object’s path, direction, or movement. 

Prepositions Examples:

  1. To: Used to indicate movement towards a specific destination. Example: She walked to the park.
  2. From: Used to indicate movement away or origin from a specific location. Example: He travelled from New York to Los Angeles.
  3. Into: indicates movement towards the inside or entry into a place or object. Example: She jumped into the pool.
  4. Onto: Used to indicate movement onto the surface of something. Example: He climbed onto the roof.
  5. Out of: Used to indicate movement from the inside or exit of a place or object. Example: They ran out of the room.
  6. Through: Used to indicate movement from one side to another or passing from one point to another. Example: The car drove through the tunnel.
  7. Across: Used to indicate movement from one side to the other side of an area or object. Example: They walked across the bridge.
  8. Towards: Used to indicate movement in the direction of something. Example: The bird flew towards the tree.

Prepositions of Agent or Instrument: Their Usage with Examples

Prepositions of agent or instrument are used to indicate the agent or instrument involved in performing an action. 

Usage of Prepositions of Agent or Instrument:

  1. By: Used to indicate the agent or doer of an action. Example: The painting was created by a talented artist.
  2. With: Used to indicate the instrument or means used to perform an action. Example: He fixed the broken shelf with a hammer.
  3. Through: Used to indicate the means or method by which an action is accomplished. Example: She achieved success through hard work and determination.

Examples of Sentences Using Prepositions of Agent or Instrument:

  1. The book was written by a renowned author.
  2. The window was repaired with a screwdriver.
  3. The project was completed through extensive collaboration.

Prepositions of Cause or Reason: How to Use Them In Your Sentences

Prepositions of cause or reason are used to indicate the cause or reason behind an action or event. They help us express the motive or explanation for something happening. 

Usage of Prepositions of Cause or Reason:

  1. Because of: Used to indicate the cause or reason for something. Example: The match was cancelled because of heavy rain.
  2. Due to: Used to indicate the cause or reason for something, often used in more formal contexts. Example: The delay was due to technical issues.
  3. For: Used to indicate the reason or purpose behind an action. Example: She studied hard for good grades.
  4. On account of: Used to indicate the cause or reason for something, often used in formal or written language. Example: The flight was delayed on account of a mechanical problem.

Understanding Prepositional Words: The Game Changers in Effective Communication

Prepositional words are words that function as prepositions in the English language. 

Here is a list of commonly used preposition words:

  1. About
  2. Above
  3. Across
  4. After
  5. Against
  6. Along
  7. Among
  8. Around
  9. As
  10. At
  11. Before
  12. Behind
  13. Below
  14. Beneath
  15. Beside
  16. Between
  17. Beyond
  18. By
  19. Down
  20. Of

Establishing Relationships

Prepositional words help establish relationships between different elements in a sentence. They indicate spatial relationships (e.g., location, direction), temporal relationships (e.g., time, duration), and other relationships (e.g., means, cause). 

Examples of Sentences Using Preposition Words:

  1. The cat is sitting on the mat.
  2. He walked across the bridge.
  3. She placed the vase on the table.
  4. They went to the movies after dinner.

Prepositions and Pronouns: How to Avoid Confusing One for Another

Prepositions and pronouns are two essential parts of speech in the English language. While prepositions establish relationships between words and phrases, pronouns replace nouns to avoid repetition. s.

Usage of Prepositional Pronouns:=

Prepositional pronouns follow prepositions to convey relationships between objects or people. The most commonly used prepositional pronouns are “me,” “you,” “him,” “her,” “it,” “us,” and “them.” These pronouns change form depending on their role in the sentence, such as “I” becoming “me” or “he” becoming “him.”

Examples of Prepositional Pronouns:

  • Can you pass the book to him?
  • She went shopping with her.

Other Usage of Pronouns with Prepositions

Pronouns are also commonly used with prepositions when expressing possession or association. For instance:

  • The keys are mine.
  • This book belongs to her.
  • He is a friend of ours.
  • The idea came from him.

Exploring Phrasal Prepositions: What are they and How SHould you Use them?

Phrasal prepositions are combinations of words that function as prepositions. Unlike single-word prepositions, which consist of a single word (e.g., “in,” “on,” “at”), phrasal prepositions are formed by combining a preposition with another word, typically an adverb or a noun. 

Distinguishing Phrasal Prepositions from Single-Word Prepositions

The main difference between a phrasal preposition and a single-word preposition is their composition. Phrasal prepositions consist of two or more words, while single-word prepositions are standalone. 

List of Common Phrasal Prepositions and Their Meanings

  1. According to: In agreement with or as stated by. Example: According to the weather forecast, it will rain tomorrow.
  2. Along with: In company or association with. Example: She went to the concert along with her friends.
  3. Because of: Due to or on account of. Example: The match was cancelled because of bad weather.
  4. In front of: Positioned before or facing. Example: The car parked in front of the building.

Preposition Examples

Here are examples showcasing the usage of prepositions in different contexts:

Prepositions indicating location:

  • The cat is sitting on the chair.
  • The book is under the table.

Prepositions indicating time:

  • We will meet at 2 p.m.
  • The movie starts in five minutes.

Prepositions indicating direction:

  • He walked towards the park.
  • She ran away from the crowd.

Prepositions indicating relationships:

  • The gift is for you.
  • The dog is playing with a ball.

Prepositions indicating means or manner:

  • They travelled by car.
  • He solved the problem with a calculator.
list of adverbs for kids

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Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: Prepositions connect nouns, pronouns, or phrases to other words in a sentence, indicating relationships of location, time, direction, and more.
  2. Function: Prepositions establish relationships between elements in a sentence by expressing concepts such as location, time, manner, cause, possession, and more.
  3. Types: Prepositions can be categorised based on their functions, including prepositions of place, time, direction, agent or instrument, cause or reason, and more.
  4. Usage: Selecting the correct preposition depends on the context and the intended meaning. Consider the relationship you want to convey and choose the preposition that best fits that meaning.
  5. Flexibility: Prepositions can have multiple meanings, and usage can vary depending on context. Context and intended meaning should guide your choice of preposition.
  6. Idiomatic Expressions: Prepositions are integral to many idiomatic expressions, so understanding their usage within these expressions is vital for fluent and natural language use


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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you end a sentence with a preposition?

Yes, ending a sentence with a preposition in English is acceptable.

What is the difference between prepositions of time and prepositions of place?

Prepositions of time are used to indicate when an action or event occurs. Examples of prepositions of time include “at,” “on,” “in”.

Prepositions of Place: Prepositions of place are used to indicate where something is located or the position of an object in relation to another object or a specific area. Examples include “in,” “on,” “at”.

How do I choose the correct preposition in a sentence?
  1. Consider the specific meaning and context
  2. Pay attention to collocations
  3. Use examples and reference materials
  4. Read and listen to English
  5. Practice and seek feedback
Can prepositions have multiple meanings?

Yes, prepositions can indeed have multiple meanings. For example, the preposition “in” can indicate the location (“in the box”), time (“in the morning”), manner (“in a hurry”), inclusion (“included in the package”), and more. 

Are there any rules or guidelines for preposition usage?
  1. Collocations: Pay attention to common word combinations or collocations. For example, “in the car” “on the table.”
  2. Verbs and prepositions: Some verbs are commonly followed by specific prepositions. For instance, “listen to” music, “talk about” a topic. 
  3. Context and meaning: Consider the specific purpose and context you want to convey. 
  4. Reading and exposure: Expose yourself to English texts, literature, and conversations to see how prepositions are used in various contexts. 
  5. Practice and feedback: Regularly practise using prepositions in different sentences. Seek feedback from native English speakers to help refine your usage of prepositions.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when using prepositions?

When using prepositions, there are some common mistakes that learners of English often make. 

  1. Confusing similar prepositions: Some prepositions may have similar meanings but are used in different contexts. For example, they are confusing “in” and “on” or “at” and “to” can lead to incorrect usage. 
  2. Incorrect word order: Placing the preposition in the wrong position within a sentence can lead to grammatically incorrect sentences. 
  3. Lack of agreement: Ensure that the preposition agrees with the noun or pronoun it relates to in terms of number and gender. 
  4. Overusing prepositions: Sometimes, learners may use prepositions excessively, resulting in wordy or convoluted sentences. 
Where can I find a comprehensive list of prepositions in English?
  1. English Grammar Books: Comprehensive grammar books, such as “A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language” by Randolph Quirk Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik, “Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English” by Douglas Biber, Stig Johansson, Geoffrey Leech, Susan Conrad, and Edward Finegan 
  2. Online Grammar Resources: Many reputable websites dedicated to English grammar provide comprehensive lists of prepositions like Grammarly, Oxford Dictionaries, and Cambridge Dictionary. 
  3. English Language Teaching (ELT) Materials: Resources designed for English language learners, such as those published by Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, or Pearson, usually provide lists of prepositions along with explanations and usage examples.
  4. Language Learning Apps: Language learning platforms and apps like Edulyte, Duolingo, or Babbel often include lessons on prepositions, providing comprehensive lists and interactive exercises to reinforce understanding.
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